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Durham University

Margins of the East Fen: Historic Landscape Evolution

2.1 The Saxon Shore, the Vikings and Domesday Book

This section discusses the Early Medieval period between the last phase of the Roman rule and the consolidation of Norman rule in the decades after the Conquest; some of its main historical data are summarised in Table 2.1.1. The last phases of the Roman occupation of rural Lindsey have not yielded abundant evidence to the archaeologist and historian. The discussions of documents and metalwork by Sawyer and by Leahy suggest that in the fourth century AD the region was prosperous but that it became much less so once Roman rule was withdrawn.1 Such a trend was not halted by the small Germanic groups who settled while Lindsey was still a Roman province. The main Saxon influx was in the fifth century. In landscape terms, there are questions about the end of the widespread and presumably internationally important salt industry, whose remains (especially in the form of briquetage) are widely found along the coast north of Skegness and around the landward edges of the Fens. That this industry became extinct because of economic-political breakdown in late-Roman and sub-Roman times is entirely possible, but there is another factor in the probability of sea-level rise in the fourth century AD. If this was widespread, then the embayment containing the East, West and Wildmore Fens would have become a wetland even if not an real open-water bay; Horncastle may have become a town with easy access to salt water, even if not actually at the seaside.

2.1.1 Physical Geography

The main focus must be on the ecology of any embayment which eventually contained the East Fen. Although matters of climate and weather are relevant to this period, the evidence is so lacking in detail that few useful statements can be made. Detailed examinations of stratigraphy, coupled with inferences from archaeological data, are much more productive of a coherent story of environmental distributions and change. The general nature of saltmarsh dynamics is central to studies of the early medieval landscape.2 Embayment Ecology

Careful investigations of stratigraphy have shown a Holocene sequence of silts and peats in the basin, culminating with an incursion of marine silts in Late Roman times: Roman salterns at Ingoldmells, for example, are buried beneath 2 - 3m of marine silts.3 The maximum height of this incursion of the sea along the Lincolnshire Marsh was 22ft (6.7m OD) and there seems no obvious reason why that should not have applied in the East Fen basin.4 But caution must be applied: in Belgium's coastal plain, for example, the notion of a single post-Roman transgression has been abandoned in favour of sedimentation changes which varied from place to place, especially in terms of the evolution from intertidal to supratidal environments, which would have been key factors in the habitability of the region. It is suspected that Roman exploitation of peats in Belgium (with a consequent lowering of land level) was extensive enough to allow a post-Roman transgression to occupy areas which otherwise might have remained dry.5 Thus the transgressive overlaps at Swineshead radiocarbon-dated to 315 - 425 cal AD and 395 - 535 cal AD6 may not reflect the total regional picture. If 6.7m can be taken as the highest altitude to which any post-Roman transgression would have reached, it sets an landward limit of marine influence and indeed calculations for Spalding based on estimates of highest tides suggest a maximum rise of 4.22m, echoed by 4.52m on the Fen Causeway between Peterborough and Denver. A sea-level curve for the southern North Sea published by Behre7 suggests much lower rises above the continental datum lines used in that study: he postuates a peak of about 0.8m in 500 cal AD, with a regression of 0.25m until a further peak at 0.8m in 725 cal AD. If true of England, the Early Saxon occupation would have taken place against the background of a falling sea-level but Middle Saxon settlement would have contended with rising levels; the Viking occupation of 870 came in a time of falling sea-level. However, this work has been strongly criticised and seems not to include factors such as the size of embayments, sediment supply, storm incidence and indeed human impact;8 there may also be data problems and is countered by the general finding that 'relatively small coastal areas (less than 50km in diameter) all have their own sea-level history and that sealevel index points from different coastal sectors should not be integrated in the data plot of one overall curve.'9 Thus the current opinion seems to be that changes in Holocene stratigraphy do not necessarily mean changes in RSL. The overall context of isostasy is also important but there seem to be too few data to make firm judgements.10 In addition, the possibility that human activity has caused land shrinkage has to be taken into account from Roman times at least.11

That there was peat growth in the basin in historic times is shown by the documentary references to turbary,12 the likely origin of the East Fen 'deeps' as flooded peat diggings,13 and the cranberry production maintained until final drainage14 (Oxycoccus palustris will only grow on acid peats). The distribution of peat in post-Roman times was probably wider than appears on maps such as those of the Geological Survey in the nineteenth century. The imagery used by web-based Earth satellite images show a large quasi-circular area of darker soils centred on the Fen;15 all over the Fens peat grew ponded behind salt-marshes.16 Beneath this peaty surface are the obvious indications of numerous creeks,17 both in aerial photographs and in the profiles of the Soil Survey. These might be regarded as the drainage system developed in salt marsh that colonised the late Roman silt incursion, unless it is an earlier system that has been made visible by the post-reclamation loss of an upper peat. A possible scenario for this sequence is shown in Fig 2.1.1 where soils have in fact lost their uppermost peat and exposed any occupation debris on the top of underlying silts. The soil marks on APs south-east of Wainfleet St Mary church which look reminiscent of 'ladder settlements' might possibly be of Roman age and 'exhumed' by the recent loss of peat. Peats might vary in thickness acording to the amount of consolidation thay had undergone, which in turn depends on the amount of overlying silt deposited before enclosure took place.18

The creek system appears dendritic in aerial photographs and on LiDAR and can be interpreted as showing maturity in the sense that it had long enough to develop a branching rather than a linear structure.19 In their lower reaches these creeks would have been fully tidal and carry marine levels of salinity; in their upper stretches the contribution of fresh water was greater. There may well have been acid peat bogs subject to tidal influence, an ecosystem not now found in the British Isles.20 LiDAR suggests that networks of creeks were initiated at different times in different places, with local factors being important. Fig of Efen lidar: to have 1.0.x number These might have included environmental gradients, non-uniform autocompaction and the relief of any preceding peat marsh, especially if domed raised bogs were present.21 These factors do not necessitate sea-level change as a factor in tidal channel patterns.22

What is uncertain is the presence or absence of natural sand bars between any proto-Gibraltar Point and the creek that became the Witham. Arguing in favour, their locations have been put forward by B.B. Simmons in his maps;23 Waller considers that most of the deposits are from sets of conditions unprotected by banks;24 and the Soil Survey thought of original sand banks enhanced by salt waste.25 Waller suggests that barrier islands are best developed in microtidal regions (with a range of 0.0 - 2m) whereas the macrotidal regime of the Wash has a mean range of 4.2m and is 6.3m at springs.26 Waller's view is reinforced by research in the Wadden Sea where barrier islands form in the range of 1.8 - 3.0m, provided that wave heights are not above 2.2m and that there are adequate supplies of sediment; even given that the latter two conditions are favourable, the first lies outside the propitious tidal range.27 Brew, on the other hand, conceives of a ridge of material (in Wainfleet St Mary and Friskney) developed by wind or by storm waves which transported material landwards off adjacent sand flats in The Wash.28

There are boreholes in the vicinity of The Tofts, which are seen as the likely sites of any sand-bars between Boston and Wainfleet.29 In a transect across Wrangle, there was a maximum thickness of about 2.0m of silty sand which may represent a man-made deposit rather than a sand-bar since it contains charcoal as well as bivalve shells and nodules of cemented sand and clay. The western or inland boundary of the Tofts roughly marks the edge of a thin humic layer at 2.0m OD which corresponds to salt-marsh distribution at the time when the Toft sediments began to accumulate. However, the stratigraphic verdict seems to be that no extensive natural supratidal barriers are unambiguously recorded.

Even with all the caveats about the local variations in stratigraphy and their relation to sea-level, the reality of some form of late/post Roman rise seems well founded but differences across quite small spatial ranges are to be expected.30 Although the picture is to some extent uncertain both spatially and temporally, the post-Roman sea-level rise in SE Lindsey seems to have resulted in a large wetland embayment with a maximum penetration to 6.7m OD of salt-marsh/mudflat and freshwater fen deposits, but with little or no open water. Above that horizon some dry land can be envisaged, though it might not be out of the reach of high tides funnelled up narrowing creeks.31 Only the higher parts of the Stickford-Stickney-Sibsey ridge rise above the 6.7m level; there would have been no other differentiation between the areas of the East and West Fens, and the present surface of the Tofts between Boston and Wainfleet barely protrude above this level.32 The time of stabilisation of any sea-level rise is difficult to estimate without a series of 14C dates since autocompaction of sediments renders inaccurate estimates based on height above or below any datum. It looks as if 400 - 500 AD is an acceptable range for the end of inorganic sedimentation.33 Stabilisation of the rate of rise at zero does not necessarily mean a lack of ecological change: salt-marsh and mudflats can accrete very rapidly if there is a plentiful supply of sediment. Most sediment in The Wash currently derives immediately from the North Sea off the coast between Skegness and the Humber34 and if there were increased tidal current velocities in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times, and since any outfall manipulation affects salt-marsh accretion, then any human activity which created drier areas would also attract fast-growing salt-marshes. Their accumulation need not have been gradual: any event which upset equilibria might lead to very rapid growth, especially in front of sea-banks.35 The tidal range in the Humber is 7.3m and at King's Lynn 5.6m, so there is good scope for high-reaching tides to contribute to accretion if laden with silt.36

Thus any depiction of a landscape datum for human activity in the embayment has several uncertainties: the exact spatial distribution of peat, for example, and whether there was a broad salt-marsh-peat border zone or whether there were a series of creek-salt-marsh-peat interdigitations. The salt-marsh type is largely determined by the balance between the supply of organic material from plant growth and the rate of sea-level change, all within the frame of the turbidity of the system. This is turn is related to changes in the shape of an embayment such as the Wash which may well result in differences in tidal regime.37 The shape may also affect salinity gradients: the map of recent levels published by Evans and Collins38 has a marked break about the latitude of Wrangle, with two quite close isohalines at the coast marking a discontinuity from the lower values of the 'inward' part of the coast towards Boston and the higher salinities towards Gibraltar Point. Thus coastal parishes like Freiston and Leverton have incident salinities in the order of 26‰ whereas Friskney and Wainfleet St Mary are fringed by salinities of 33 - 34‰. Mud-flats form best in sheltered areas so some exposure might have favoured the sand accumulation best for salt-making.39

All the supratidal zones were intersected by a dendritic creek system which would have been potentially tidal virtually up to the base of higher ground. The creeks can be seen on LiDAR images of the East Fen.40 The behaviour of such creeks produces raised banks of silt on both sides, usually called roddons, and these would become elevated above the surrounding wetlands provided that there was enough silt in the system. The location of the interface of sand flats below the salt-marsh/mudflat zone with open water is also uncertain. Dynamism of this environment is the norm and many features can change over quite short time periods. Evidence from the Wadden sea and the southern Low Countries suggests that very large changes in coastal morphology can occur quite suddenly and that human manipulation of the land-sea interfaces can be an important factor; back-barrier tidal basins are rarely preserved in the sedimentary record (which might apply to the Low Grounds of Wainfleet St Mary) but any increase in energy in shallow embayments might change the balance between mudflats and sandflats, which could conceivably have been important for medieval salt-making.41 In the absence of highly intensive stratigraphic investigations, such claims cannot be made for SEL but the inherent complexity of deposition in both meso-scale embayments like the Wash and the basin of the Witham fens as well as smaller bowls like Low Grounds needs to be borne in mind as does the apparent ease with which colonising communities with early medieval technology can affect land-water relations. Relatively small (<50km diameter) coastal areas along the North Sea coast of Germany were deemed to have their own sea-level history which could not be extrapolated from other areas or generalised plots;42 tidal bay formation may happen when RSL falls and embankments fail.43

The next question is, 'where were the first dry patches?' which allowed (or were the consequence of) the earliest post-Roman settlements in this region. If the flood maps (see note 28) are a reasonable guide, then at +6m the linear toftline between Wrangle and Wainfleet begins to emerge (as do the sand dunes north of Gibraltar Point which can surely be ignored for this period), some patches around Fishtoft, Frampton and Boston (this plot is derived from today's altitudes) and there are distinct 'islands' at Sibsey and Stickney. At +7m Burgh-le-Marsh was almost an island, but at +6m solidly connected to the 'mainland', from which it forms a promontory. The overall pattern is intensified at +5m, with the Tofts emerging as a linear stripe between Old Leake and Wainfleet, together with the larger islands between Boston and the promontory to the south of East Keal.44 (Fig 2.1.2) This pattern accords with later evidence though any reference to heights must always be accompanied by the question, 'has there been post-Saxon shrinkage or growth of land surfaces that has affected the elevations that are measured by these recent methods?' This source does not isolate former roddons as higher areas, as does LiDAR in the case of Wainfleet Haven, for example. The largest creeks in this region were presumably those that became Wainfleet Haven, Simon's Gowt, Black Gote, Wrangle Haven and a creek near Leake. Their roddons would have been attractive settlement sites.45 The list of initial areas suitable for settlement comprises the locations above: the Toftline from Wainfleet to Wrangle, the interface with higher ground along the northern and north-eastern edges of the East Fen and around Burgh-le-Marsh. The exact location of the coastline north of present-day Skegness is not known but the consensus seems to be that it was between 4 - 6km further out to sea and that any proto-Gibraltar Point 'ness' was well north of its present location. If there were sand dunes, then they may likely have allowed salt-marsh to accumulate on the landward side and this would have been a feasible site for early reclamation along the Winthorpe-Ingoldmells-Addlethorpe line. Further south, as the toftline was built up, it carried the potential for restricting outlets to the sea and 'ponding' water inland in the area of the East Fen.

In the Low Countries and North-west Germany, roddons were the sites of early medieval settlement as also were ridges of sand or marsh that ran parallel to the coast in more or less straight lines. Settlement was made more secure by the building of mounds above the tidal and storm levels: these were called terp (-en) or wierden in the Netherlands and Wurt (-en) in Germany. Such settlements may have increased the vulnerability to flood of land behind the ridges since reclaimed salt-marsh was dewatered by drainage and so shrank; the cutting of peat for fuel and as a source of salt also created areas of very low-lying terrain.46

In summary, the early Saxon period's physical geography is dominated by a series of ecosystems in which freshwater fen is dominant towards the hills but extends several kilometres seawards and was still extending in Saxon times; salt-marsh with mudflats forms a quasi-continuous zone east of the fen but penetrates it landwards along tidal creeks; and a broad area of sand-flats extends into the subtidal zone. It is possible that a line of sandbars or other salt-marsh ridges preceded the line of the Tofts between Boston and Wainfleet. The the weight of scientific writing is against that interpretation for SEL, though the greater detail in some Dutch excavations needs consideration. Weather and Climate

The course of climatic history, with associated phenomena like weather patterns, changes in relative sea-level (RSL), the silting up of Havens and the making of sea-banks are all related and in this region there is a variable amount of detail about each of them in medieval times. The maximum amount of information about such items (locally and around the North Sea) is given in Appendix 2.1.A and some of this appendix repeats (though often in a different order) the data discussed here.

Historical climatologists have put little focus on the first millennium AD and the detail of greatest use in the present study, such as very cold, very dry or flood conditions are not singled out in long-term studies. The most detailed collection of material is a 'private' study of references to published material on a year-by-year or decade-by-decade basis, according to the density of the data.47 The period 500 - 1100 takes three web pages and so summary is difficult. The information is often not place-specific within the UK and there are sometimes problems with the exact year. A few items of interest emerge and some summaries are possible:

  • 400 - 649: Fair conditions to start, though very variable; cooling implied from 450, with deterioration during 450 - 650. A short wet period in the early fifth century. The region would have experienced whatever caused the world-wide events of 535 x 536 which were marked by a notable cooling everywhere.48
  • 650 - 849: Mid-seventh century onwards colder than most, especially in winter. The North Sea had periods of storminess and the eighth century some very cold winters.
  • 850 - 1049: Very cold winters at the beginning but in the early tenth century a more benign climate was beginning to develop. The ninth-tenth centuries were another period of sea-level rise, with some Late Saxon sites being drowned in the southern fens.49

This leads on to the Medieval Warm Epoch peaking in 1100 - 1250, having started somewhat irregularly in about 900. Wet years were common immediately after the Conquest (1086/7, 1092 and 1098) and there were droughts in 679 - 681 (known as St Wilfrid's drought) and 910 - 930. Details from the Low Countries Temperature reconstruction (LCT) suggest colder winters in 850 - 959, then warmer 1000 - 1100 followed by cooler winters right down to 1700; summer low periods included 1000 - 1200, followed by a warm era 1200 - 1450.50 If Fenno-Scandinavian data are relevant then cold troughs were centred around 660 and 800 and predominantly warm conditions in 720 - 790 and 870 - 1110.51

In the eleventh century the East coast of England suffered a high number of floods, mostly from winter storms but also under the influence of a rise in sea-level. Specific North Sea floods were recorded in 586 and 1099 but more general descriptions might extend the number. In the Low Countries there is only one reliable record of a storm surge between 500 - 1000, in 838; in the eleventh century, there was damage from storm surges in 1014, 1029 and 1099. Rivers appear to have been active in the ninth century but less so in the tenth.52 So while the surges might encompass the whole basin then their effects (and hence the evidence for them) might be regional.53 This is especially true of conditions where a north-easterly wind piles up water (notably on spring tides) against the east coast of the UK, as happened in 1953 and was threatened in November 2007. Wider European work tends to concentrate either on periods for which there are good proxy data or for episodes of special interest like the Medieval Warm Epoch or the Little Ice Age. The period 400 - 1000 AD is in general in neither category. Later Dutch work has good detail but mostly for the period after 1100. Documentary sources imply that the effects of any surges were magnified by the reclamation of the peat lands and by embankment; also that it is possible to lose land more or less permanently to flooding. In the case of the Netherlands' Middle Ages, the reclamation and quasi-industrial use of peat allowed the flooding of large areas of back-fen; the areas inundated make the creation of the Norfolk Broads and the East Fen Deeps look minuscule.54

2.1.2 The Saxon Occupation of the Land: Material Evidence

The significant findings from archaeological and documentary sources for the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Lindsey are interpreted in the two texts cited in Note 1 above; for the East Fen area the evidence can be summarised as:

  1. On the dryland area of the Wolds and their fringes there is a full suite of Anglo-Saxon finds; Eagles further suggests that the Lymn valley in the Wolds has a notable concentration of early Anglo-Saxon sites;55 by contrast the mid-Saxon sites (as measured by the 'productive sites' of metal detectorists) are almost entirely absent.56 B.B. Simmons assigns all early Saxon sites to elevations above 6m OD whereas middle Saxon sites may be found at 4m and below.57 This hints that the embayment was little settled in the earliest Saxon period but that more territory was colonised by mid-Saxon times. The distribution of fragments of stone sculpture avoids the Fen zone entirely for the earlier phases: Cumberworth and Theddlethorpe have pieces for the late tenth/early eleventh centuries; Friskney and Ingoldmells from the late eleventh/early twelfth centuries.58 Burgh-le-Marsh was above even the highest post-Roman wetlands with a 'summit' of 15m OD, and a fortified settlement from the sixth/seventh centuries was sited on a Romano-British foundation.59
  2. In the former wetlands, there is a restricted Anglo-Saxon presence. The Fenland Survey's work at Wrangle produced a spatial-periodised account of the parish with most detail for the former settlement of Wolmersty whereas most of the parishes in and around the East Fen have no entries for the period in the SMR.60 Evidence from the northern fens for Early Saxon times is thin. Even the higher levees of the Witham have no Saxon material until the period of Danish settlement; fen-side sites seem to have been abandoned after the Roman occupation, and the dry-land emphasis of material finds seems to extend into the Mid-Saxon period along the fen-edge at Stickney. The sandy soils of the surrounding upland were clearly more attractive and the physical evidence of a marine transgression in the Early Saxon period is reinforced. The one exception seems to be site SKD 10 (Lane Fig 69) on the west side of the Stickford 'island', which extended into the Mid-Saxon centuries; it is within sight of an Early Saxon cremation-burial cemetery at Hall Hill, West Keal. In Mid-Saxon times, a few sites like SKD 10 and East Keal EKE 5 continue on from the Early Saxon period but the impression is that small sites have been absorbed into a more nucleated pattern of settlement.61 On the siltlands south of the Witham, some villages have names claimed to be of seventh century origin (the line from Algarkirk to Frampton especially), in the territory of the Spaldas known from the Tribal Hidage of the late 8th century62 and their equivalents north of the Witham are Leverton, Butterwick and Freiston. Hayes suggests that the Spaldas' transition from dispersed to nucleated settlement took place in the ninth century, caused by either renewed Mercian conquest or the Danish invasion.63 On the far north of the area now being considered, it has been claimed that Huttoft was a polyfocal Saxon settlement with pottery from both early and late periods.64
  3. In the Late Saxon period (which includes the time when Lindsey and north Holland were part of the northern Danelaw) there is a flush of new sites, sometimes re-occupying locations last used in Roman times. As well, there is a surprising scatter of Late Saxon material well into the Fen area of Wrangle parish at Dickon Hills (TF 435 564), placed upon the mounds of laminated silts from a former roddon and continuing through to the end of medieval times. But the chief interest around Wrangle comes from the relation of Saxon material to the raised silts called the Tofts, whose surface is usually held to be the waste from salt-making. The main area of Late Saxon sherds is on the landward side of these deposits as well as around the village of Wrangle itself and at the postulated site of Wolmersty (TF 446 532) which seems to have had a Late Saxon foundation, followed by a medieval importance in which it gave its name to the wapentake now called Skirbeck before disappearing altogether, probably in the seventeenth century. Toft-like silts are also found around Leake Fold Hill (TF 405 518) to the west of Wrangle. This enabled Lane to interpret the Tofts in Leake and Wrangle (and by extension north-eastwards through Friskney and Wainfleet) as being of Late Saxon origin, though presumably much added to in later times since the salt-making went on until the sixteenth century. The Old Fen Dyke north of Kings Hill in Wrangle can then be assigned to a pre-Conquest date, which reinforces Hallam's view that High Street, the continuous path between Wainfleet St Mary and Wrangle is a former sea-bank of pre-Conquest times.65 Excavation of the old sea-bank at Clenchwarton near King's Lynn suggested a date of 'no earlier than the 11th century'.66

The dominant impression from the Fenland Survey's work north of the Witham is therefore of patchy, almost ephemeral-seeming, occupation in Early Saxon and Mid-Saxon times but a more confident presence in the Late Saxon period bolstered by the development of a landscape-forming salt industry on what is now the western edge of the Tofts. It was presumably this industry which gives the numbers of salterns in DB, incomplete though that record seems to be. Inland there is the development of nucleated settlements as at Wrangle and Wolmersty, and at the villages to the south like Leake, Butterwick, Leverton and Freiston together with evidence of occupation/activity in patches within the wetlands to the north-west. The foundation of Wainfleet, well up its eponymous Haven, seems to fit none of these categories. No settlements of the calibre of the high-status site at Flixborough in NE Lincs has appeared.67 These findings chime with the overall picture of eastern England as a region where elites merged late (i.e., after AD 600) and settlements became more stable, with village movement lessened by the eighth century, with a clearer nucleation a century later.68 Documentary Evidence

This region lacks Anglo-Saxon charters and so the main source of written information is Domesday Book (DB), some of whose data were amplified by the Lindsey Survey (LS) of 1115 - 1118.69 Editions are plentiful,70 though the Lincoln Record Society's version has the most contextual material and is seen as foundational.71 In 2007, the TNA made digital copies available on-line, though not for free.72 Domesday Book: General

Though the collection of information and the writing-up of DB is Norman in date, all commentators agree that its findings reflect a good quantity of Saxon arrangements. In the case of Lincolnshire and especially of Lindsey, the Saxon polity was modified by becoming a well-settled part of the Danelaw, so that to see Saxon times, the lenses of (a) the way in which DB organised its findings and (b) the impress of Danish rule and settlement have both to be corrected for historical astigmatism. The interpretation of DB can yield information of two main types-political and economic. The first tells us how the geld was organised and in particular the role of manors, hundreds and wapentakes as fiscal units.73 Each wapentake was subdivided into hundreds, which were assessed at twelve carucates, where a carucate was nominally the amount of land that could be ploughed in each year by an eight-ox plough-team. The hundred was not only the unit of taxation but the basis for sharing of public duties such as military service, bridges, fortifications, and maybe even the construction of water-control banks and dams.74 Use of DB requires a complicated exegesis of both words and layout and ends up telling us (among other things not relevant here) that the place-names are not easily referable to place-names on the ground: the names of geldable units are not necessarily places that can be identified on a map. Put in the context of Saxon political history, this means that not much of the Saxon place-specific landscape can necessarily be inferred from DB, with some exceptions.75 The expert may be able to deduce some relevant information from the names of individuals, available on a digital database.76

The most systematic attempt to translate DB into historical geography for this region was made by Darby.77 His maps summarise for instance the variations in size and location of plough teams, on the assumption that locations in the text can be transferred to the ground. He also plots inferred population, showing that settlements in the East Fen embayment region are the same size as elsewhere but give a lower population density. He also points out that meadows and fisheries are likely to have been common but are thinly represented in DB. In summary, he thinks that the silt belt of Lincolnshire (which also includes terrain to the Norfolk border, south of the present area of interest) was 'a poor country' in DB times, with the exception of Skirbeck wapentake, which was as well-off as some of the poorer upland areas marginal to the fenland. Darby also plots the occurrence of 'waste' in the county, hypothesising that the term may refer to a lapse from a previous form of land use. Two occurrences are found in the East Fen embayment: in Wrangle (Wolmersty/Skirbeck) where Guy of Craon had 2 carucates of land to the geld and land for 1 plough team.78 This was waste on account of the action (fluxum) of the sea. In Wainfleet, Gilbert de Gand had a bovate of land assessed to the geld which was 'inland' (i.e., part of the desmesne) but also 'waste', with no further comment.79 It seems unreasonable to infer only from these two mentions that the coast of the Wash was silting up or subject to rising sea-level. (The burial of a Late Saxon wharf by marine silts in the Hull valley of north Humberside is probably too far away to be relevant and in any case estuaries increase tidal levels by funnelling high water).80

Darby later revised some of his interpretations81 though none challenges the basic picture of his earlier work. What emerges from some of his maps (e.g., Figs 44 and 45) is that along with Norfolk and north Suffolk, this area had the highest densities of men per ploughteam, albeit the number of teams was low and information lacking for what is presumed to be wetland. One interpretation stems from the small size of holdings, in which case there were presumably other economic activities (sheep and salt come to mind) or else a gross overpopulation; Darby laments, 'On this, as on so many other matters, Domesday Book does not enlighten us' It is notable that where there are data for sheep, as in Essex, they show up mostly in a belt parallel with the coast in a fashion easily imagined for Lincolnshire. For salt, Darby cannot improve on the idea that the DB returns are incomplete. His extended dissertation on waste throws no new light on the two examples from the shore of the Wash.82

Domesday Book is clearly better than nothing. It may give the bare bones of a landscape history but lacks immense amounts of detail, as with sheep for example. This skeleton may be assignable to a basic anatomy but the finer detail of the forensic archaeologist is always likely to be distorted. It does not add to or indeed detract from a conventional picture of an upland on the landward side of a wetland area, with a coastal belt of silt whose origin is not discernable from the DB evidence; DB tells us nothing exceptional about those places which it mentions in the East Fen region, other than perhaps the density of salterns. Otherwise the variability shown in plottable phenomena (ploughlands, sokemen etc) is within the normal ranges for eastern England though the value in national perspective falls below the average of 6s per man, to be expected when so much area was still wild terrain. This terrain was not unused, but would scarcely yield the sort of renders to be noted by the Domesday commissioners. The Local DB Entries and their Interpretation

Nobody has undertaken the detailed exegesis of the local entries that conforms to the standards set by Roffe and no such attempt will be made here. If generally applicable conclusions can be drawn, then we may note that:

  1. The organisation by landlords confirms that the relations of entries to locations is not necessarily close. Several manors clearly have land in vills with a different place-name. So any one place will have a mosaic of manors, some of which may be run from a local 'caput' or head place, others subject to jurisdiction from a neighbouring unit or from afar.83 Addlethorpe, Burgh, Leake and Leverton all contain land which is 'jurisdiction of Drayton' ca 6km SW of Boston; likewise areas of both 'inland' and 'berewic' exist in Wainfleet, meaning 'demesne land' and 'outlying land' respectively The local DB entries are reproduced in Appendix 2.1.B.
  2. The assignment of resources to the geld often produces a list of localities or manors so that it is not possible to locate an particular set of plough lands or people: one entry for Wainfleet also nominates Haugh, Calceby, Theddlethorpe and Mablethorpe as containing 20 salinae, for example. In Little Steeping and Halton there was one church but four mills which accords with their location on the Lymn. Bolingbroke had jurisdiction over the vills in its wapentake and the whole manor was 6 x 6 leagues, i.e., about 18 x 18 miles. There was a church, a new market and three mills: it sounds like the head place of the wapentake, which might have earlier been a multiple estate. Candleshoe Wapentake looks a less clear case if only for its small piece of fen which might have been compensated by land in the Lindsey Marsh, whose Saxon terrain status is much less clear than that of the East Fen. Nor is its head-place obvious, though presumably Candlesby has a good case on account of the name, and Partney had one or perhaps two monasteries in Bede's time, possibly conferring importance.84
  3. DB poses two further puzzles in the form of two names that have vanished: Langene and Tric. The former is often identified with Irby-in-the Marsh and derived from a long 'island' or ridge which forms most of the north-south shape of the parish; Tric is clearly to be found along the Wainfleet-Croft-Skegness shore and derives from the Latin traiectus meaning the end of a crossing-point, in this case probably a Roman ferry to Brancaster in Norfolk.85 Its relationship to the putative 'castle' near Skegness is not known.

Hart looks in detail at the DB and LS carucation of Candleshoe Wapentake and reconstructs the local layout of hundreds that comprise the twelve carucates that go towards the 'normal' 120 carucates in each wapentake.86 (Fig 2.1.3) The map of hundreds within Candleshoe includes the vanished Tric, placed between Croft and Burgh. Burgh comes to the sea since there was no Skegness in DB. Also, the lost Langene is placed along with Bratoft since there is no entry for Irby-in-the-Marsh. So Wainfleet is, according to Hart, a hundred (adding up the seven entries in DB) on its own of 10 carucates in DB and eight in LS. Friskney is rated very low and a 12-carucate hundred can only be made by combining Wainfleet, Friskney and Tric. Likewise, a 12-carucate hundred at DB needs the combination of Bratoft, Langene and Croft. If carucate totals were at all related to terrain, then the squeezing of Friskney between sea and fen might be reflected, as might the coastal strip nature of Croft. However, since carucates were a top-down allocation, this is by no means certain. No comparative analysis has been made for Bolingbroke wapentake; in Holland, Wrangle forms a 12-carucate hundred in the wapentake of Wolmersty, which was renamed Skirbeck in later years. Hart argues that in Holland the great men of East Anglia held 'the great majority of individual estates in addition to exercising a general lordship over the territory'87 and so the Wrangle-Friskney boundary may have had management implications for the maintenance of sea-banks, for example. In more general terms, it is possible to see many of the large hundreds as units formed by the splitting of great multiple estates of an earlier Saxon era. This might explain the protrusion of Thorpe St Peter and Little Steeping (Bolingbroke wapentake) into Candleshoe territory. At any rate, Thorpe is a jurisdiction of Bolingbroke; Halton and Little Steeping go together and with Thorpe amount to 11 carucates 3 bovates and there is the possibility of some additional geld from the combination of 'Spilsby, Eresby and Thorp' at 6 carucates. So the hundred of Halton is the basis for the extension of Bolingbroke wapentake onto the northern fen-edge.

One problem with Hart's distribution map of hundreds in low Candleshoe is that he uses today's coastline and other topography. His idea of a continuous dry-land/coastline interface between a proto-Skegness and Wainfleet-Friskney could be rather interrupted by a wetland embayment stretching northwards towards Hogsthorpe. Fig 2.1.4 shows how the landscape elements might have been distributed. Zones 2a and 2b are largely empty of nucleated settlement and therefore likely to have been wetland during the period of establishment of the villages which are named as vills in DB. The 'empty' areas of the Low Grounds of Wainfleet St Mary-Friskney and Wrangle are known from post-Conquest documents to have had a mixture of peat and salt-marsh amongst the drier land.88 So it would not be surprising to find evidence for the presence of peat against the foot of the Wolds in the Sloothby area, for example. The DB entries for Addlethorpe add up to some 1500 acres of meadow, which is an area about 2 x 3km, some 75 per cent of the current parish area; there were also 4 bovates of waste. This might allow an interpretation of marginality and the western parish boundary is in places highly irregular suggesting it was formed on a field-by-field basis as reclamation took place.

The likelihood that Tric was either in the lee of any sand-spit somewhere at the latitude of present-day Skegness or near today's Wainfleet seems quite high. The Roman presence near Skegness is reasonably well documented and although Stukeley's assignment of the Roman name of 'Vainona' to Wainfleet is widely derided, it might just have been built on as firm a foundation as Defoe's informant on the castle at Skegness. Tric is assigned 120 acres of meadow in DB, which forms a block about 0.75 x 0.62km, but 30 acres are jointly assigned to three other vills as well.89 None of it was waste whereas Gilbert de Gand's DB holding said, 'In Wemflet 1 bovate trae ad geld. Wasta est'.90

2.1.3 Place-names

The relations between British, Germanic and Scandinavian inhabitants of England are often discussed in terms of place-names. The practice is full of complications, not the least of which is the way in which an existing settlement can be re-named by later occupants. One drawback to the East Fen region is that detailed work beyond the village and major topographic feature level has not been published, so that any amplification that might be got from e.g., field names, has not appeared in print.

What seems clear is that British names are more or less absent except for the river name, the Lymn, as in 'lime (tree)' where it is interesting to note that lime-rich woods are often found on the calcareous uplands of Lincolnshire. For later times, Sawyer91 suggests that the main Anglo-Saxon influx into the county was at the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century AD, dominated by Angles from south Jylland-north Schleswig southwards to the Netherlands. Cameron assigns topographic names to the earliest Germanic settlers92 and then after the mid-fifth century, common terms such as burh, cot, ham, tun, wic and worth though wic may be early and show a relationship with Romano-British sites. AD 450 - 650 contributes -ing and -ingham names. Permanent settlement by Scandinavians ('Vikings') started about 877 and included land taken from monastic communities, though some Saxon estates survived long enough to be recognised in DB. Important place-names include the element -bý (a large proportion of the English total is in Lindsey) and holmr, along with thorp;93 there are suggestions that some -thorp names were originally English, though they all seem to have applied to the outlying parts of larger estates, many of which were broken up in the course of Scandinavian settlement and control.94 Settlements on raised mounds seem uncommon, compared with the Frisian region from which some settlers apparently came.95 On the eve of the Norman Conquest, most leading landowners were of Scandinavian descent and the key to Danish influence may lie in the field-names as much as the village names. A variety and density of Scandinavian field-names is a good indication of Danish influence in Lincolnshire, though care must be taken with those elements which might be either OE or ON, such as land, acer/akr, dic/dik, dæl/dalr, pytt/pyt, sÄ«k/sík, stÄ«g/stígr.96 No studies of field-names for SEL have been made by specialists.

The status and dating of the -bý names (of which there are 234 in Lincs) has generated the most interest. Sawyer had proposed a hierarchy of settlement with -tun names on the best lands, -bý names on the less attractive areas and -thorpe names in the most marginal. Following Fellows-Jensen,97 he then ascribed the -by names with a personal first element to the pieces of fragmented estates created during the tenth century. A more recent and very thorough analysis has suggested that the -bý names were coined by speakers of Old Norse (ON) and hence were not Saxon settlements that had been taken over by Scandinavians; that there were sizeable communities of ON speakers in eastern England; that ON-speakers had a significant land-holding role but that many of these holdings were relatively marginal or low in status with most being named before the eleventh century.98 So it seems safe (for the moment) to regard -bý names as being indicative of settlement of less attractive places during the tenth century, with the accompanying corollary that OE speakers had taken the better environments. This idea ought perhaps to be expanded to mean that they had in some places created the better environments.99 In the case of OE dik, ON diki, there is the possibility that the words represent sections of the boundary of an estate or subdivisions of its territory between subtenants or categories of land; likewise hæge, hege ,might be part of estate or internal boundaries.100 Likewise, carr provides some examples of boundary markers.101

Table 2.1.2 sets out the likely ages and interpretations of local place-names, as derived from standard sources, with occasional comments based on landscape analysis in the present work. One sequence would present this as a ring of OE names on drier land around the East Fen, with some colonisation of marginal terrain in between the OE lands and then beyond them into the thicket of -bý names that is found on the southern Wolds, intersected by the OE settlements in the Lymn valley. Wrangle's ambiguous attribution might be an example of a take-over by Scandinavians. Firsby and Irby do not fit in the sense of being ON appellations for secondary settlements since seen in the field there is nothing to demote them to residual status. In any case, we might expect Frisians to have been among any early Germanic incomers, so perhaps Firsby (on a spur of distinctly higher land overlooking the fen) ought better to be classified as an Anglo-Saxon foundation. On the other hand, Irby's derivation from presumably Irish Norsemen is likely to be later but the site is in no way inferior in terms of obvious land resources. Where Thorpe St Peter stands, we might expect to see another Anglo-Saxon name but instead there is an ON name for a daughter settlement and one which (although often known as Thorpe-by-Wainfleet) was in fact part of a DB Wapentake which stretched down from Bolingbroke via Little Steeping whereas the other northern vills were part of Candleshoe wapentake. It is certainly on a more marginal site than Firsby or Irby, if it is assumed that dry land was crucial.102 But why Bolingbroke wapentake possesses that finger of territory has no obviously topographical explanation unless there had been a large estate that had greater access to the fen through the Little Steeping-Thorpe corridor of land.103 If there was colonisation of the landward side of a coastal stretch of salt-marsh north from today's Skegness, then it carries strong suggestions of Danish secondary settlement in the number of þorp names, Ingoldmells, and -bý names (like Sloothby and Willoughby on the western fringes) but with Cumberworth an OE name on the rising land to the north of an embayment.

It is possible to make lists of some field names in the Wainfleet area as well as Steeping and Firsby and these are listed in Table 2.1.3. Following the example of Sandgren (n 74), a table was compiled of the field names in the Wainfleet area known from medieval and early modern documents to see if they threw any light on the balance between OE- and ON-derived words. To these was added the lists for Steeping (undiff) and Firsby from the Bardney Cartulary. Not that simple counting is definitive: too many words might have come from either language, their application to land might have been continued into the post-Conquest period, and more recent recording may have distorted them. Nevertheless, they are one of the few resources with which to amplify the simple analysis and interpretation of the village names.104

In the absence of responses to requests for help from the authorities on Lincolnshire place-names, some contravention of the Gelling principle (do not come near this field unless you have been steeped in it since adolescence) has been necessary. In this case, the data recorded in the Nottingham 'Key to English Place-Names' has been used as if the field names were those of the larger places recorded in the database.105 De facto, this means that if an element is assigned to OE or ON, then it is recorded as such in the tables. Some additional information has been garnered from A.H. Smith's Place-Name Elements,106 and by looking up some words in OE and ME dictionaries. The result is inevitably a blunderbuss blast rather than an accurate piece of rifle fire but the following may be noted:

  1. In Wainfleet, there are several toft and croft names, which have OE root-words and so an Anglo-Saxon origin of land surface might be posited. But several of these seem likely to post-date the creation of that piece of land by salt-making, so that the name was re-used, as it were. They do allow the inference that the terms were in conventional use.
  2. Features like 'flete', 'sea-dyk', and 'lade' seem to be OE, suggesting that basic water-management was in place before the Scandinavian settlers had any influence.107
  3. There are several 'gat/gate' names with ON road as the translation. In this area, most roads probably ran along banks, so the notion of Scandinavian intensification of drainage can be entertained along with the possibility that land subdivision is being emplaced in the landscape.
  4. The ditched pastures called 'daila' in Latin probably use ON 'dal', so perhaps some of the enclosures made possible by the processes under (3) above were influenced by Scandinavian practices.
  5. In Steeping, there seems to be a predominance of OE elements; we are on higher ground and in an area which Sawyer et al would wish to be a favoured site for Anglo-Saxon occupation. The major exception is 'thinghou' which seems to be the assembly-mound favoured by Danish groups: in this case presumably of the hundred.108 The topographical 'beck' is OE rather than its ON equivalents.
  6. Firsby is the settlement of the Frisians. Cameron has these Frisians tag along with the Danes rather than be early Germanic arrivals. Such other elements as can be recognised and make sense topographically seem to be more ON than OE, allowing acceptance of the -bý name, though it could still have been an early Frisian group who were later colonised by newcomers.

What is perhaps not in question is that the coastal band of settlement from Croft to Leake is largely Anglo-Saxon in its naming of the vills. Given the discussion of the physical geography above, then there is additional reason for believing that Germanic incomers settled on roddons or seasonally dry areas on the seaward fringe of the great embayment and proceeded to make themselves more secure by activities such as salt-making and embankment. Thus any discussion of the relationships of place-names and topography has always to remember that environmental determinism is not the whole story.

2.1.4 The Vikings: Documents and Archaeology

That Lindsey was part of the Danelaw is not disputed. Between 880 - 920 there was independent Scandinavian political domination of Lindsey and there may have been consequences for the social organisation, the use of land and the progress of settlement. Certainly, as the place-name evidence has shown, there were settlements whose names reflect Scandinavian tenure but the degree of take-over by (in this region) largely Danish people cannot be inferred simply from the distribution of names in e.g., and þorp. Even the total number of Scandinavians who lived on the land and in the towns of England is uncertain, though perhaps 'a few thousand' is of the right order. Any general model of settlement and economy, such as the role of pre-Viking estates and the way in which they might have been fragmented into the manors that are recorded in DB, can usually be dismantled with some counter-examples. Thus nobody suggests that Danish settlement was disruptive of the pre-Viking organisation of Lindsey though it may have intensified the land-taking patterns.109 The Danelaw seems to have been a place with more than usual the number of free men, of vills with scattered lordship, and of conversion to Christianity in the tenth century but few historians would now attribute these features simply to an assumption of Scandinavian hegemony. Likewise, the model of regional minsters serving large areas from a central church or monastery breaking down into churches owned by manorial lords who set out the parish boundaries which can be drawn on modern maps is not one that commands universal acceptance.110 It is therefore not surprising that nobody has tried to draw maps of the estates of east Lindsey during pre-Viking times and ways in which they might have been changed by Danish rule. If it is even possible that strip allocation by orientation to the sun (solskifte) was English first and then Scandinavian, then few definitive statements about the period can be made.111

One generally held idea is that between 800 - 1000 there was a move towards nucleated settlement with its associated fields, though the extent of manorialisation and the cause(s) are not agreed. If this happened then there might be an associated break-up of existing large estates. In the Wainfleet area it is hard to point to any definite evidence that any such process took place. But the Danelaw has few 'superior' churches in DB and little sign of minster rights influencing later parochial arrangements.112 If the locality followed a 'normal' or 'national' pattern then in the seventh-eighth centuries minster churches played a central role with big parochiae of perhaps 5 - 15 modern parishes,113 and then from the 950s onwards into the middle years of the twelfth century there was a tide of church foundation. Most of the local churches' present structures seem to date from the period of western-tower two-light belfry period of 1050 - 1120. Perhaps 50 - 60 per cent of parish churches existed by 1080 but most of them by 1180. By this latter date there was a stable ecclesiastical foundation with precise parish boundaries. In very general terms, it has been suggested that no monastery acquired much land north of the Welland in the one hundred years before 1066114 so that the monastic influence to be encountered later in this work may originate in post-Conquest times.

2.1.5 Village Morphology

There is no shortage of work aiming to examine the morphology of villages. In the case of Lincolnshire, Hadley has looked at the topic in the context of the whole Northern Danelaw115 and the total coverage of England by Roberts and Wrathmell has a specific section on the Danelaw.116 It seems worthwhile to examine some of the village plans to see if any of the noted features are present and how they might be interpreted. The detail is in Appendix 2.1.C and what follows is a condensation and summary.

Looking at the list of possible features of the Danelaw village up to about 1100 (Table 2.1.C.1), not many of them seem to apply generally. One or more may be found at individual sites but there is no regional pattern, except perhaps that of absence. The pattern is that there is no pattern. If the evidence were better then it might be possible to investigate further whether for example criterion (3), the differentiation of holdings, applied to the two Wainfleet areas and indeed if the complexities of land holding (criterion (4)) there revealed in DB seemed to have any effect on the ground. Polyfocality can be seen at some settlements if all the present and image-detectable tofts and cottages are assumed to have had a coeval existence in the past, which is a big leap. Thus without much more archaeological evidence, there is something of an impasse. Nevertheless, it looks as if there was no dramatic Danish impress or sudden change, but that evolution of settlement type and lordship - and possibly ethno-cultural development - was proceeding in ways affected by many factors prevalent in early medieval society.117

One feature might apply reasonably widely: there has been shrinkage in several of the settlements. Wainfleet must be left out since it is likely that there was a 'voluntary' move to a new site, but at Thorpe St Peter, Little Steeping, Great Steeping and Friskney it is possible to make a case that there were once built-up areas of tofts and crofts which did not survive and in some cases became cultivated land or pasture. But such a judgement says nothing about chronology and any further speculation about such a possibility must be deferred until the nature of settlement in the high middle ages and thereafter has been considered.

One last factor should be mentioned: the environment. Without giving way to environmental determinism, it needs to be noted that these villages are placed in a different set of biophysical circumstances from the limestone hills of Kesteven or the glacial clay-covered Chalk of the Wolds. The settlements were juxtaposed to water, both salt and fresh, which was both a resource and a threat. Paradoxically, as the tofts grew seawards, settlement on them may have been restricted because of the lack of water: the silts may not have held rainwater very well (see the discussion of ponds later) and wells may soon have reached brackish water. The morphology of all kinds of settlements hereabouts needs to have its potential freshwater supplies checked. Further, the 9 - 10th century was a period of advance of freshwater fen and, apparently, a drowning of Saxon sites in the silt fens of south Lincolnshire and Norfolk.118 This could have led to mounding of core settlement areas or to relocation.

2.1.6 Models of Landscape Development 500 - 1100

If we were to model the development of the landscape in the Wainfleet area during this period then the main ingredients might be:

  1. Rippon's models of land-taking and consolidation as applied to low coasts119 (Fig 2.1.5).
  2. A discussion of the relevance of the concept of the linked development of estates and parochial domains followed by the subsequent cellularisation of the land as smaller land holdings and eventually parishes became the norm.120
  3. The modification of all such trends and influences by the 'fluid' nature of places which lay between the fen and the sea, with both sources of water likely to be dominant influences on land and life.
  4. This applies especially to the fen, a considerable resource. There was no need to parcel it out as long as its yields exceeded demands placed on it by marginal communities, so parish boundaries into the fen might have been quite late results of cellularisation. Roffe quotes one example from the Peterborough area of fen parcelling in the late tenth century.121
  5. The acknowledgement that there are considerable uncertainties in the distribution of various types of terrain through this period and that assumptions have to be made that cannot be supported by evidence of a solid kind. It follows that discovery of new data could change the picture quite markedly.

One way that carries forward the spirit of the present work is to present a series of maps of the period 500 - 1100 AD which summarise some of the above. The find-maps compiled by Leahy are not incorporated since they largely record no finds from the area under consideration: apart from some coins in the Skegness-Burgh zone, the low areas are devoid of plotted materials. The end-point of the DB situation has already been mapped (Fig 2.1.4) so Figs 2.1.6 - 2.1.8 represent earlier phases; they deal with the Wash-Fen zone between Wainfleet and Wrangle about which the most detail has accumulated.

Fig 2.1.6 suggests a stage when nucleated settlements have colonised emergent areas of wetlands dominated by salt-marsh. The model suggests that each is roughly oval in shape which is not easily applied to this set. In SEL, it is hypothesised that any pre-nucleated Saxon occupation had been on or withdrawn into drier areas, so that this map corresponds to a time well into Germanic occupation, not any kind of initial phase, which would most likely have kept to the higher ground of the Wolds and possibly long-standing emergent land along the Keal-Sibsey line: all early Saxon material is above +6m OD and mid-Saxon sites are above +4m OD, according to B. B. Simmons.122 The placement of the nuclei along the boundary between 'pure' salt-marsh and the mixed zone of salt-marsh and peat fen (as deduced from the presence of both peat 'moss' and salt waste in post-Conquest times) allows access to fuel resources like peat as well as food from both fresh- and salt-water sources. Note that both Wrangle and Wainfleet are placed on tidal inlets, the first of which became substantially reclaimed at some (unknown) time but the northerly one stayed open until controlled in the later Middle Ages by a dam or dams with sluices. If anything, the area occupied by this up-Haven Wainfleet is seems too large but the field patterns make it difficult to extract a smaller 'core'. The core of Wrangle around the church and its relation to lower ground as well as its Haven is shown in Fig 2.1.C.10. The other major feature of this map is the high proportion of peat fen and indeed not all the East Fen is shown on these maps. Fens are ecologically diverse and there were some naturally drier areas.

Corresponding to Rippon's second phase, a later map (Fig 2.1.7) inserts a sea-bank which links the main settlements and which therefore supposes administrative arrangements that either made that possible or possibly enforced it. This map marks a radical change from the previous depiction, since it:

  1. Shows a sea-bank linking the main settlements. However, it is difficult to include Wolmersty since it seems to lie inland of any probable line of an early sea-bank.
  2. Suggests that the earliest protective wall was at the junction of the mixed zone and the salt-marsh and therefore follows more or less the line of the current A52 - Low Road through Wrangle, Friskney and Wainfleet St Mary, which is called 'Friskney Head Dyke' on the 1824 OS One-Inch map.123 In Wrangle, this line coincides with the landward side of the present Tofts, where (along with Wrangle village) there is a concentration of Late Saxon sherds.124
  3. Coincides with the Wallasea/Wisbech series of the Soil Survey which locally has a buried humic layer said to indicate former salt-marsh. This is however not present in Wainfleet St Mary which has only the Wallasea series.125 Waller says that 'The western boundary of the Tofts must roughly mark the inland limit of the intertidal zone at the start of extensive salt-making.'126
  4. Posits a bank against the freshwater fen to contain it and probably also to manage its resources more formally. The nuclei of settlement are expanded on the grounds that population growth was likely. Some interpretations of fen growth south of Boston invoke peat growth seawards in Late Saxon times so that fen banks might have been barriers to expansion of wetland than simply precursors of its reclamation.127
  5. Shows again that Wolmersty is difficult to fit into the emerging patterns; perhaps it never had the access to resources that enabled it to avoid eventual extinction. Acceptance of the idea of a haven penetrating up the line of the local parish boundary might give it a position on the shore of the haven.

This map is central in the sense that it shows the main elements of more recent landscapes being created out of the post-Roman embayment's ecology. It departs from most previous considerations however in suggesting that the Low Road was a key early landscape marker.

The third map (Fig 2.1.8) is largely an intensification of the previous layout but with the key addition of the Toftland as an element derived from the accumulation of salt waste. It seems very likely that the possession of a foreshore that could be scraped up after a spring high tide (in later Latin documents a greva) was a key element and so the seaward extension of the tofts took place. Hallam thought that the footpath called High Street along the crest of the Tofts was a former sea-bank and so this is taken as a pre-Conquest feature.128 This seaward movement does not preclude some more reclamation in the mixed zone, though it seems likely that this was more a feature of post-Conquest times. By now, churches are likely to have been founded (though probably not yet built in stone); no such edifice has been suggested for Wolmersty until the high Middle Ages. The churches would very likely be on the edges of the villages they served. It may also be that this area was now part of an estate or estate belonging to Saxon thegns or to their Danish overlords if that degree of dominance was established. Some kind of estate division might explain the emergence of two churches at Wainfleet within one kilometre of each other, though DB makes no differentiation in references to 'Wenflet'.129 No great reclamation of Wrangle Haven is suggested: the Norman motte-and-bailey of King's Hill is likely to lie near to a main watercourse.

Then there is the map of terrain at the time of DB (Fig 2.1.4). As discussed in the context of the layout of the Hundreds, there are some large areas of wetland and zones 2a and 2b (interrupted only by Wainfleet Haven and the settlement of Wainfleet itself) have virtually no nucleated settlement. Zone 6 is difficult to assign: the land could have been mostly wetland (in which salt-marsh is the most probable ecosystem with some peat mosses to the west); but it could also have been reclaimed: there are two distinct types of field pattern. South-west of Friskney the patterns are very similar to Fig 2.1.8.

Thus the material of DB ought to be translatable on to this figure. However, as scholars of DB remind us, the correspondence between named units and the ground cannot be assumed. But noting for example the possibility of some waste land (as in Wrangle where it was put down to flooding from the sea) and the assignment of salterns to Wainfleet and Leake (which borders Wrangle Haven) then perhaps it is is possible to accept the initial growth of the Tofts - though not to their full more recent width - along the shores of the Wash. Neither Skegness nor Winthorpe exist as entries in DB and were probably reckoned along with Ingoldmells; there is the, er, tricky question of assigning the lost name of Tric somewhere between Ingoldmells and Friskney without knowing what sort or size of place it was except that it might have carried the echo of being a Roman ferry-port. Croft parish has some very straight roads but looked at in a regional context so does much of zone 6 on the DB map; this might result from a very late enclosure pattern rather like the reclamation of moorlands on the Pennine fringes in the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries.

The end of a major phase in the landscape history ends with the differentiation of some distinct units. The fen has a boundary, as do the Tofts on both sides. There was a distinct coastline north of the Ingoldmells area but south-west of that a great expanse of salt-marsh. There is however uncertainty about this southern end of the Lincoln Marsh, where it is possible that there was still a major embayment of wetland, and the block of terrain in which Thorpe St Peter is the only nucleated settlement but where the meadowlands of Firsby and Bratoft showed a distinct field pattern on maps before the 1970s. The Low Grounds between Wainfleet St Mary and Wrangle were still a mixture of salt-marsh and peat fen though it is easy to imagine some reclamation eating into those stretches and adding to dry land around the churches in Friskney and Wainfleet St Mary for example. None of which resolves the question of the date and character of the 'ladder settlement' in Wainfleet St Mary Low Grounds shown in Fig 2.1.9. All these units are sufficiently manipulable by the technologies available to show distinct change in the post-Conquest years, should the social and administrative arrangements propel them to do so.130 Work is currently in hand (May 2015) on the width of the major havens of the Skegness-Wrangle coast, and there may well be chnages to be made to text and maps as a consequence.